Pittsburgh Pirates +180 @ Atlanta Braves -200 (Total: 7.5)
James McDonald (6-4, 4.15) vs. Tim Hudson (9-6, 3.39)
The Pirates head in to Atlanta flying high after yesterday’s dramatic tenth-inning win over division foe St. Louis, pulling them even with the Cards and Brewers in a virtual first place tie. Still, there remains a large contingent waiting for the Pirates to fade from contention, and given their slim overall run differential it is quantifiable that the Bucs are playing a bit over their heads. However, as Sunday’s game proved, there is a little magic brewing down by the Allegheny, and sometimes in baseball that’s enough to sneak up and steal the pennant.
The Pirates success has been largely earned the same way Atlanta is doing it, and has been for twenty years; dominant starting pitching. Jair Jurgens, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson make up about as good as any threesome you’ll find in the majors, save for maybe Philadelphia (though I’d listen to an argument for the Braves trio). Pittsburgh doesn’t have nearly the name recognition, but they are getting nearly the same results in 2011.
They’ll need a strong pitching performance to contend with Atlanta and Hudson. The Braves have won 12 of their last 14 at home, and Hudson has been excellent in his last three starts, logging over 21 innings and posting a WHIP of just 1.03.
On the opposing mound, James McDonald has been excellent as well, though only 1-0 over his past three starts, the Pirates have won all three of his starts, and McDonald has accorded himself well with a 2.45 ERA.
The recent trends support the Braves, who have won 6 of 8 against Pittsburgh and have been on fire at home. However, at -200, it is a pretty steep price to pay. The Pirates, who are boasting a solid starter, albeit a smaller name, become a really interesting value play at +180. I’m going roll the dice with the Pittsburgh magic and take the nearly 2:1 opportunity.
Detroit Tigers +135 @ Chicago White Sox -145 (TOTAL: 9)
Duane Below (0.0, 1.80) vs. M. Buehrle (7-5, 3.38)
Duane Below will take the mound for the tigers tonight in just his second major league start. His first went pretty well, giving up just one earned run in five innings pitched. Tonight, the Tigers will look to get an extra inning of two, provided he can successfully navigate this White Sox lineup.
Buehrle has pitched decently this season, but has struggled a bit in his last three appearances, posting a 1-2 record and a 5.58 ERA. He has also struggled mightily against Detroit this season in his two starts, with a 1-1 record, but a dreadful 6.94 ERA.
It is always a bit of a gut-check moment to lay some money on a virtual unknown taking the mound against an established veteran, but that’s exactly what I’m doing tonight. Let me give you some convincing reasons why…
Detroit is 7-1 in their last 8 meetings in Chicago. They are 12-3 in their last 15 head-to-head matchups overall. Lastly, Detroit is 6-2 in their last 8 games away from Comerica Park. To have all these trends heading in your favor AND getting plus-money as well? It’s really too good to pass up. I’m taking the rookie and the Tigers on the road in the Southside.